Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, in collaboration with DePaul University, hosted the second edition of the International Gender Conference on 7th and 8th January 2020. The opening ceremony of the two-day conference was commemorated by Dr Anita Patankar, Director of SSLA. After the opening comments, Dr Zafar Iqbal, Associate Professor of Marketing at DePaul, took the podium and described safe spaces as built on the core values of trust and deep friendship which are reflected in the bond between SSLA and DePaul since 2011.
The first track for the conference was concerned with deciphering the various discourses operating in our socio-cultural environment and attaching them to the identities created, through the perspectives of power structures and gender relations. Professor Krishna Menon, Dean at School of Human Studies, Ambedkar University, New Delhi delivered a speech on implementing a feminist pedagogy within classrooms. They opined that such classrooms, by mapping these identities on an axis of power, privilege and inequalities, give us the “three Es of a feminist classroom: Edginess, Exhilaration and Exhaustion”. Professor Ipshita Chanda, from the Department of Comparative Literature, English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Hyderabad highlighted how the majoritarian perspective fails to understand the dilemmas of the minorities and ultimately patronises it. Dr Rajit Mazumder, an Associate Professor of History, Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, DePaul University, Chicago presented research on ‘Whose Nation is it Anyway? Culture and Identity before Partition’ explaining how the concept of nation in itself is a problematic way of theorising people in India and Pakistan. Mr Ronan Paterson, from SCEDT, Department of Communications, Media & Arts, Teesside University, UK expatiated on the ‘Gender Fluidity within English Classical Comedies’, utilising Shakespearean pieces and other works of theatre to emphasise the ambiguity around gender norms and performative gender roles. Dr Leah E. Bryant, Associate Professor of Communication and Media at DePaul University, Chicago, presented a research project on Discourse dependent families, who challenge the dominant familial paradigm, and emphasised on the need for explaining who they are and their existence. They also analysed the misconceptions formed from the cultural definition of family, through multiple perspectives.
The second track titled ‘Consumption and Changing Identities: Influence of Industry and Globalization’ attempted to assimilate the force of movements that shape the age of globalization, while understanding that identity across the spectrum derives from and contributes to the global media network today. Dr. Kelly Kessler- Associate Professor of Communication and Media, Digital Communication and Media Arts, Media and Cinema Studies, DePaul University, started the track by introducing the audience to a brief history of the US television ecosystem. His presentation addressed the topics of gender, sexuality and the implications of economic models within the US television industry.
Mr. Sidharth Deshmukh, Senior Adviser at MICA, Ahmedabad, shared their personal experiences that threw light on gender intersections with other identities including caste, race, class, and something that is less spoken of; age. They highlighted the importance of learning from women younger than oneself, challenging the conventions of age, gender and the concept of power. Dr. Ruchi Jaggi, Director of Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, talked about the Indian television ecosystem and the changing representation of gender on streaming platforms, contrasting it with that of the US as explained by Dr. Kelly. Adv. Kunickaa Sadanand, Actor, Producer and Social Activist, brought the advocacy and activist perspective and helped the audience see the perspective of the performers or the creative labour who operate under the mercy of the production house.
The day concluded with a workshop on gender-based violence conducted by Barkha Bajaj, Clinical Psychologist, Trauma Expert and Founder of Aks Foundation. The workshop systematically covered the legal, socio-economic and psychological causes of gendered violence and the activities enabled an efficient understanding of the same.